Weather and Global Warming
What kind of extreme weather is caused by global warming?
It is very difficult to connect a global "cause" (global
warming) to a specific "extreme" (weather condition) because
specific weather conditions are highly variable and affected by
many weather inputs. In the usual popular context, "global warming"
means to imply extreme weather caused by human activity (the
"technical term" is anthropogenic). While there is actual data from
various sources that polar ice caps are melting, for example, there
is a huge leap to assign that observation to increased levels
of "greenhouse gases".
What has happened in the last decade is that "global warming"
has become more a political and social issue than a scientific
study. Some examples: 1. Ethanol from corn is supposed to reduce
the level of global warming "greenhouse gases". But when one
factors in the energy required to produce ethanol from corn --
harvesting, machinery, fertilizers, insecticides, etc. -- it is
very uncertain (my opinion) that there is a net positive effect on
global warming, and hence extreme weather. In areas of the U.S.
where addition of up to 10% ethanol in gasoline is mandated, there
has been no measurable improvement in air quality. 2. Meat in a
very energy intensive inefficient way to convert sunlight into a
steak. Does that mean everyone should / would become a vegetarian?
I think that is not realistic, at least in more developed
countries. 3. The "atmosphere" is only about 6 to 7 miles thick,
only a thin shell surrounding the Earth. Compared to the mass of
the Earth, it has a small heat capacity. So "natural" events can
cause large variations in its temperature, density, and composition.
I do not mean to discount the importance of conservation of
fossil fuels, etc., but the problem is very complex, and there is a
danger of chasing the wrong culprit(s), while other important
issues that also have global consequences, are neglected.
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Update: June 2012